ST THOMAS, USVI -- The US Virgin islands’ healthcare reform implementation task force is closer to making an informed decision on whether the territory will establish a health insurance exchange for USVI residents with the completion of a study of the territory’s healthcare related technology infrastructure. The Task Force received a comprehensive review of the study findings at a meeting held on Friday, January 18, 2013, at Government House on St Croix.
From the beginning of its efforts to accomplish healthcare reform in the USVI and implement the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the task force recognized the importance of the territory’s healthcare information systems.
The study, a healthcare IT gap analysis conducted by New Wave Telecom, extensively analyzed systems currently in place at the Departments of Health and Human Services, and the Financial Management System at the Department of Finance to determine the capabilities of the combined systems to support the technological requirements of an insurance exchange.
Study findings indicate that if the USVI should pursue exchange implementation, it should consider partnering with states that meet or exceed federal requirements for health information technology systems, namely Washington, New York, Maryland, District of Columbia and the New England Consortia. These states have all been recently approved by the federal government for their state-based exchange model blueprints, with some being awarded IT innovator supplemental grant awards to support their exchange planning activities.
The territory has already begun building relationships with a few of these states through the Department of Human Services Medicaid Program, which is in the process of developing a joint eligibility system program development for nutrition assistance, cash assistance and Medicaid services eligibility in preparation for the possibility of Medicaid expansion.
The Department of Human Services recently became the territory’s access point for Medicaid, meaning that all Medicaid applicants, beneficiaries and vendors will now go through the Department of Human Services instead of the Department of Health, which previously administered the program. Accordingly, SNAP and TANF staff will be trained in Medicaid eligibility in preparation to capably handle a potential influx of over 4,000 new clients in the Spring of 2013.
This expansion of the healthcare system is also expected to result in better coordination of the territory’s healthcare resources through the implementation of the new medical home model, which focuses on highlighting and encouraging residents to access primary care as a means to increase annual health screenings and conversely reduce the incidence of preventable chronic diseases in the territory.
Taetia Phillips-Dorsett, healthcare task force coordinator, is confident that the time spent on the studies will enable the best decisions to be made in the interests of the USVI community.
“These studies position us to make informed decisions based on quantitative and qualitative data that represents the realities of our community, as opposed to anecdotal data that cannot be further validated or verified,” Phillips-Dorsett said.
The task force is awaiting the completion of a private insurance market analysis before making a final recommendation of the feasibility of the exchange to Governor John DeJongh.